Buzzfeed in the UK: are kittens, owls and boy bands the media's future?

The UK launch of BuzzFeed promises more fun fluff that attracts 40 million hits a month. Oscar Williams-Grut reports

Any hip 20-something who logs on to list-loving social media site BuzzFeed tomorrow – and thousands around the world do daily – they will notice something a little different.

Alongside pieces like "29 Baby Animals George W Bush Should Paint Next" and "Cats Offering Helpful Advice To Lindsay Lohan" will be "The Autocorrect Map Of Britain" and "18 Weird And Wonderful British Foods You Need To Try".

Monday marks the launch of BuzzFeed UK, the first overseas office of the wildly popular American website that has been hailed as either the death knell or the future of the media.

Founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti, who was also one of the brains behind Huffington Post, BuzzFeed calls itself the "first true social news organisation" and specialises in "shareable content". In practice, this means lists of cute animals, photos of celebrities and lots of nostalgia.

The formula has proved wildly successful, so that the company has been valued at $200m (£130m), and in January BuzzFeed raised $19.3m to expand to London, a move its president, Jon Steinberg, called "the natural next expansion" as, after the US, most traffic comes from Blighty.

"We're not radically reinventing what BuzzFeed does," says Luke Lewis, the UK editor. "We're taking all the stuff that's done phenomenally well in the US and just giving it a British spin."

From his London office, Lewis and the three other members of the UK team have been working on what this means in practice.

"There's going to be a lot to do with nostalgia – one of the first posts we're publishing is looking at Nineties boy bands and where they are now," says Lewis, formerly the editor of NME.com. "We'll also be doing a fair bit on animals which is one of the things BuzzFeed is known for. There are lots of British animals that they've never written about: foxes, badgers, owls."

It may not sound like the forefront of the press but it is content like this that has helped the US site record over 40 million views a month. BuzzFeed, which has around 70 editorial staff in the US, recently branched into long-form and political journalism, but Lewis says the UK office won't be doing anything similar, for now at least.

"The idea is for it to be based on pop culture and British obsessions," he says. "The one article we've already published is bizarre cover lines from British real life mags like Take a Break. We're just finding corners of British culture that are funny and entertaining." It is this cultural focus that Lewis thinks will help BuzzFeed UK avoid the kind of damp squib debut suffered by Peretti's first venture, the Huffington Post.

Lewis says BuzzFeed's audience is "20-somethings obsessed with pop culture and immersed in the social web", a demographic with obvious appeal for advertisers. The US site has pioneered paid-for advertorials that are designed to be shared just like its regular content. But the UK operation will be purely editorial.

"The commercial side of it is further down the line," Lewis says. "The idea is just building up an audience and spreading the word of BuzzFeed in the UK. It's a fairly unpressured environment."

Lewis accepts that fluffy animals and advertorials might not be everyone's idea of the future of the media. "We're not here to tell anyone else how to do anything," says Lewis. "BuzzFeed has its own way of doing things. I wouldn't presume to tell anyone else what to do."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore